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Thread: Agorism vs Anarcho Capitalism for Dummies

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    Agorism vs Anarcho Capitalism for Dummies

    Talking about libertarian politics will likely leave many people confused.


    Itís no secret that libertarians have fierce independent streaks, which makes it next to impossible for them to organize in large groups. Large splinter factions abound, all with their own infighting, disagreements, and factionalism.


    Just look at the radical anarchist wing of libertarianism. Thereís even schisms among anarchist libertarians with regards to ideology and strategy. This is best exemplified by the agorism vs anarcho capitalism debate in the libertarian movement.


    While both ideologies are anarchist in outlook, they differ substantially in strategy and to a lesser degree in terms of overall market analysis, which will be discussed below.


    What is Agorism


    The theory of agorism was put forward by libertarian philosopher Samuel Edward Konkin III. Konkin was known for his fierce promotion of market anarchism and was part of a new generation of market anarchists who began to challenge the orthodoxies of libertarian thought at the time.


    The libertarians who preceded him were largely inspired by limited government classical liberal figures such as F.A. Hayek and Ludwig von Mises. Konkin, on the other hand, was ready to shake things up.


    His theory of agorism was a novel way of fighting the state. Under agorism, individuals would abandon the pursuit of traditional politics. Instead, they would attempt to build libertarian institutions to serve as alternatives to the current political economy. To resist the state, many agorists would engage in black and grey market activity.


    What set agorism apart from other libertarian sub-sects was its emphasis on proactive work in the market. After all, agorists rejected political participation and put an emphasis on using counter-economics to reduce the stateís influence on society. The agora (the open marketplace) is the ideal that proponents of agorism strive for.


    How Agorism Differed From Rothbardian Anarchism


    At the time of Konkinís rise to prominence, libertarianism was being led by Mr. Libertarian himself, Murray Rothbard. Rothbard was the pre-imminent voice for the liberty movement, whose works on history and economics made him a renowned thought leader.


    What set Rothbard apart from was his libertarian counterparts was his advocacy for anarcho-capitalism. Rothbard fiercely hated the state and saw it as an entirely illegitimate institution. Even traditionally legitimate functions of government ó defense, law enforcement, and the courts ó were perceived as illegitimate.


    In the ancap view, the market would provide these services, just like any other activity in everyday life. Agorists were in agreement with this outlook. In fact, their decision to participate in counter-economics is motivated by the agorist hatred of the state.


    In a similar vein, their antipathy towards the state is what makes them view political activity as a waste of time at best. At worst, political work is an activity that legitimizes the state. Konkin called the concept of using political parties and political processes to advance libertarian agenda items as ďthe patriarchy.Ē


    This criticism wasnít solely directed towards Rothbardians. Konkin believed that this was a flaw of limited government libertarians or minarchists (another term he coined). The disciples of Konkin stressed the importance of building the counter-economy of free-market economic institutions and businesses as a pragmatic way to bring change.


    These ventures that exist outside of the stateís umbrella of intervention and coercion are viewed as the principal means of bringing about a free society. The champions of agora regard the counter-economy as a means of peaceful direct action. In essence, agorists would avoid state power, while simultaneously building parallel institutions.


    Konkinís Strong Defense of the Agora


    The decision to participate in traditional politics is viewed as surrendering to the prevailing statist order. Konkin stressed this point in his debates with Rothbard. Eventually he penned The New Libertarian Manifesto in 1980 to outline his views on agorism.


    In his work, Konkin made the case for workers and free market entrepreneurs to band together and build institutions outside the stateís control. Konkin brought forward a new form of class theory to explain how the state derives its power and how libertarians can properly combat it.


    Konkinís class theory is derivative of Marxism, although it has various differences. Instead of framing political conflict between the bourgeoisie vs. the proletarians, Konkin saw the conflict between the state and politically connected businesses vs. free individuals and revolutionary businesses.


    The Political Uniqueness of the Agora


    Agorists still believed in private property, but their belief in free-market anarchism gave them a unique perspective on political economy. In contrast to mainstream conservatives and some libertarians, agorists did not categorically praise all business activity.


    They acknowledged that certain individuals and companies would game the state in order to extract benefits from it at productive peopleís expense. This is why many pro-agora figures made it a point to promote activities in the counter-economy and only praised entrepreneurship that operated ethically and created value for others.


    Unlike fusionist libertarian factions of the 20th century, which combined forces with traditional conservative figures, Konkin and his disciples saw agorism as an extension of the left-wing tradition. The political philosophy of the agora eschewed many associations with the conservative movement in the United States.


    Ultimately, a stateless society would be achieved through voluntary exchanges in the free market instead of political activity. Konkin was a revolutionary through and through. He saw the fatal flaws of limited government minarchism and proposed a more radical alternative involving people getting involved in black and grey markets.


    How Konkinís Philosophy Inspired Others


    Many would be led to believe that agorism is an obscure philosophy that only belongs in the dark crevices of the Internet. While it never grew into a mainstream force, the principles of agora have inspired a number of notable individuals during Konkinís lifetime.The science fiction novelist J. Neil Schulman published Alongside Night in 1979.


    In this novel, Schulman expressed agorist principles and even noted himself that he was inspired by Konkinís work. Alongside Night remains a fixture in the libertarian science fiction space. To this day, the novel remains popular in liberty circles and is often cited as a source of inspiration for modern liberty figures.


    For example, Silk Road founder Ross Ulbrich credits the work of Konkin and Schulman for his decision to create an online market on the darknet. Agorists works have inspired subsequent generations of anarchists, most notably crypto-anarchists, to work on non-state solutions to fiat money through the adoption of cryptocurrencies.


    After his death in 2004, Konkin became immortalized in libertarian circles. In addition, he has motivated others to join the fight for the agora, which shows that Konkinís ideas are still highly respected and even being passed onto future generations.

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    ďThe right to life is the source of all rightsóand the right to property is their only implementation. Without property rights, no other rights are possible. Since man has to sustain his life by his own effort, the man who has no right to the product of his effort has no means to sustain his life. The man who produces while others dispose of his product, is a slave.Ē

    An Agorist Primer



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